May 23, 2010

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January 15, 2010

Oh, the Sanctimonious Outrage!

I'm still on moveon.org's mailing list, and I just got an intriguing email from them. Apparently, they are outraged that Visa is collecting their customary 3% fee for Haiti donations:
... when Americans donate to charity with their credit cards, the credit card companies get rich. In some cases they keep 3% of the donation as a "transaction fee," even though that's far more than it costs them to process the donation. It's outrageous and wrong—and it needs to stop.
I completely agree with this sentiment. Where we apparently disagree is that I think it is ALWAYS wrong for people to profit from the infrastructure of our economy. The fact is, Visa (or another credit card) is used as cash by a huge number of people. This means Visa gets a percentage on EVERY SINGLE TRANSACTION. This amounts to nothing more than a tax.

It's funny to me that people only get outraged over profit happening around sanctimonious causes, ie, "think of the children" or "relief for the latest disaster." Just because a Haitian needs medical attention because of a hurricane, it's not OK to profit, but if some kid in south Portland gets hit by a car and needs medical attention, then profit is not only accepted and normalized, but encouraged.

Makes no sense to me whatsoever.

January 02, 2010

Farewell Football

For a few years now, I have joked that my lingering interest in NFL football is one of the last vestiges of my middle-American upbringing. This might come as a surprise to readers of this blog who don't know me personally, since I almost never write about this facet of my life. The fact is, I really enjoy the game of football. I know the game well, and spend a lot of time reading about my favorite team from my hometown, the Cincinnati Bengals. I grew up a big baseball fan, but my interest in baseball faded after one of the labor strikes many years ago. My interest in football, however, has never wavered. Until now.

I've recently made a decision. This is the last year I will spend following the Bengals in particular, or professional football or sports in general. I want to talk about this decision from two points of view.

First, from a "fan loyalty" point of view for the sports fan. I've been a Bengals fan for more than 30 years, and anyone who knows this team knows that this is truly a feat of loyalty. The Bengals did well in the 1980s, going to the Super Bowl twice. Then the 1990s, and the first few years of this decade, the Bengals decayed into a run of sports futility only rarely seen in professional sports, losing far more games than they won. Despite this run, I remained a fan, watching games as often as possible, and particularly since the advent of the 'net, staying on top of what my team was up to.

For the past few years, since the Bengals hired Marvin Lewis as a coach, this tide has begun to turn. The Bengals have won more games than they lost, and in 2005 made the playoffs for the first time since the early 1990s. That didn't end so well, but it provided hope.

This year seems like a storybook year. It began with the Bengals being featured on Hard Knocks, an HBO reality show that documents training camp for one NFL team. It provided an unprecedented look into my favorite team, and I really enjoyed watching it. The last game of the regular season is tomorrow, and the worst the bengals can finish is 10-6. They have already clinched an AFC North championship and will therefore go to the playoffs.

I remember sitting down to watch the Super Bowl at the end of the 2001 season, when the Patriots played the Rams. The Patriots were heavy underdogs. As the game was starting, I remember turning to a friend of mine and saying: "there is no way the 'Patriots' lose this game after 9/11." Sure enough, the Patriots shocked the world, beat the Rams, became world champs, and launched their "Dynasty".

I have a similar feeling about this Bengals team this year. Fans got a close look at the team in Hard Knocks (which had the highest ratings ever for the show). The Bengals have dealt with adversity, one of the coaches' wives died suddenly, and one of their players, Chris Henry, was killed during the season. None of their players made the Pro Bowl (the allstar game for the NFL). It's a feel-good story, and we'll see what happens. It will be fun to watch.

So, you can't accuse me of not being "loyal" to my team. I've been a loyal fan to one of the worst franchises in professional sports for more than 30 years. My interest and support in my team and the game as a whole has never wavered. Until now. I will finish out this season, see how the Bengals do, and at the end of this season I'm done following football.

Second, the obvious question is, why? It has become clear to me that there are some fundamental philosophical differences I have with participating the spectacle of modern sports. Here are a few of them:

  • Vicariousness. Every moment I spend watching or reading about what other people do on a practice or playing field is a moment I have not worked on myself, experienced life in a more vivid way, or become a better person.
  • Distraction. Related to the above, football, and profession sports in general, is a distraction from more important issues of self and society. This reason alone is probably the biggest reason for my decision. I remember Noam Chomsky responding to a question about "sheeple," or why the "average person" (whatever that means) isn't smart enough to be aware of what's happening in the world. He said something like "on the contrary. For evidence of the analytical capability of the average person of the working class, turn on any sports talk radio show. You will see perceptiveness, nuanced opinion, and the like." If people were to stop their interest in sports overnight, and turn their time and attention to more pressing issues (opening their spirits, understanding the frightening political machinations happening, understanding what's happening to our planet, etc.), then things would change much more quickly. Widespread common interest in professional sports, as it stands, is one of the main mechanisms of social control, distracting people from real, vivid, important issues of the day and giving them somewhere to focus their primal, competitive urges where nothing of any importance, personally or socially, is at stake.
  • Capital and class warfare. NFL players make millions of dollars per year. Team owners make even more. It is a multibillion dollar industry, nearly all of which extracts money from the working class, transferring it to the economic elite.
  • Glorified violence. Football is perhaps the most violent game in the world. Players suffer horrific injuries, even death, regularly. And of course the players who lose their millions are, like all other members of the working class, spit out and not cared for. For more on this I suggest reading former NFL player Dave Pear's blog, where he documents the plight and declining health of former NFL players.
  • Polarization. Widespread interest in sports polarizes people into "Us vs. Them" mentalities, making it much easier for the illusion of, for instance, the two-party system in America to survive.
Ultimately, I think this decision has been in the making for many years now. I've known for years that despite any enjoyment I got from being a Bengals fan, it was ultimately a pretty big time sink for me. The fact that there are now many facets of my life that need more of my attention actually made this an easy decision. The fact that I have a hunch that I'll say "Who Dey" for the last time after the Super Bowl this year just makes this decision all the more resonant.

December 30, 2009

Avatar, Allegory, and Capital

I just got back from seeing the film Avatar. I enjoyed it greatly, it pretty much instantly propelled itself into one of my favorite films of all time.

Visually, of course, it's stunning, but I'd expect nothing else from the WETA crew in New Zealand. Great eye candy, especially in 3D. I haven't seen a 3D movie in 25 years, since Jaws 3 was out. My, how technology has changed. I think Avatar will be regarded as a revolution in filmmaking similar to the LOTR series earlier this decade. Certainly, the computer animation and stop motion technology recalls Gollum but with another several years of refinement.

But apart from the eye candy, I was interested in the plot. I wasn't really sure what to expect. The main theme, of course, is Soulless Greedy Capitalism vs. Enlightened/Attuned Indigenous Population, or simply an allegory on Colonialism. I wasn't sure what to expect, normally I don't like to be spoon-fed which is what allegory turns into all-too-often. But there were some subtleties that I really appreciated.


The Na'vi, who are the indigenous population, exist on Pandora, a stunningly beautiful moon teeming with unbelievable life. This race of humanoids is deeply attuned to the life on the planet, fully aware of their connections to one another, across species, past and present. Their greeting to each other is "I see you," where "see" is something akin to "grok" in Heinlein's Stranger In A Strange Land. It is a verbal acknowledgement that the seeing speaker has fully focused their attention and consciousness on the other individual. This reflects a common pattern with indigenous peoples all across planet Earth: these people often have a way-of-seeing that is much deeper than awareness of resources to exploit so common in our western culture.

The Na'vi have a sacred tree, called the Tree of Souls. The scientist characters are intrigued by this tree, apparently it has a network of intermingling roots not unlike a neural net, with a complexity on the scale of, or superior to, a human brain. This network reminded me a lot of the mycelium network that mushrooms create in forests, acting as the "brains" of the forest, and shunting nutrients from one part of the forest to another as needed. The Tree Of Voices also allows the Na'vi to commune-icate with their ancestors, and even to transplant consciousness from one body to another.

Of course, the capitalists don't care about this sacred neural net. They wish to destroy it to intimidate the Na'vi and get them to abandon the Tree, so that they can mine for the (horribly-named) Unobtainium that exists in abundance near the tree.

This is the central part of the conflict in the story: the military/capitalists (mechanized thinking) wanting to exploit the ineffable natural resources the native people have attuned to over thousands of years (organic thinking), all in the name of short-term profit and without regard to the damage this exploitation will cause.

The Na'vi, of course, resist. They are portrayed as the "white-hat good guys" in the story, and the militaristic capitalists are the clear bad guys. The Na'vi have a Mother Goddess called Eywa, and when the protagonist prays to her for help "defeating" the Evil Greedy Capitalist Fuckers, he is told that "the mother doesn't take sides, she protects the balance of life."

This statement got me thinking. Let's assume the Gaia hypothesis for a moment, here on Earth. If this is true, then Gaia will understand that our present system of Capitalist expansion and Colonialism is completely unsustainable; all Gaia must do is wait it out until "victory" occurs and the Capitalist Empire crumbles under its own weight. Once this occurs, in a planetary blink of an eye (a few generations in human terms), the planet will reclaim the earth to Nature.

Of course, this is a Hollywood movie, so the good guys always win. On Pandora, the Colonialists are defeated, despite their superior technology, when Eywa hears Jake's prayer and sends the various denizens of the forest to fight the Capitalist Machine. Apparently in this world, set about 150 years from now, Capital has lost its ability to morph and adapt into a new role able to exploit each situation as it changes and evolves.

Not coincidentally, tonight I got into a "comment discussion" on Facebook with a Democrat. There I said that I believe our current system of government is broken, probably irrevocably, and the only way out is for more people to wake up and abandon capitalism as an ideal.

Hopefully, a few people will get their head cracked open by this film, and begin to see Capital for what it is. Ironically, Capital (and more specifically, James Cameron and the Hollywood MegaCorporations) has already profited $400 million within a week of this film's release.

What was it I said about Capital morphing to profit from any situation it finds itself in?

October 09, 2009

The Facebook machine

Apparently, this blog is now being "followed" on Facebook. Thanks to whoever set it up that way. :-)

Obviously, I haven't been posting here as much. I have, incidentally enough, been Facebooking somewhat regularly and posting the occasional burst of neural activity there.

Life pretty much continues as it has; keeping busy with work, building my studio, playing music with my guys as often as our schedules allow, trying to find time to finish our album.

Politically, I remain suspicious of the Obama administration, the bailout package, the War On Terra, etc. etc.

Personally, I have been undergoing a fundamental change. My HealthQuest is a big part of this, stepping up and putting things I've learned over the past few years into regular, disciplined practice. This is already bearing good fruit.

June 14, 2009

Isn't it interesting?

How that when it is widely believed that Ahmadinejad stole the election, there is mass protest, chaos in the streets, and hardcore police suppression.

Yet, when it was widely believed that the Bu$hites stole the election in 2000 and 2004, Americans sat in front of their televisions and computer screens, and whined a bit (yes I include myself in this)?

Just sayin'. I find this fascinating.

June 04, 2009

Obama, 9/11, and US-Muslim relations

I haven't been writing in this space much as of late. Part of this is because this blog has become largely political; my other writings (such as they are) have gone elsewhere, although the trend of me not writing as much has continued.

While I work, I'm listening to Obama's speech in Cairo. As always, I'm struck by his eloquence, and by how in his speeches, Obama really seems to get it, he seems enlightened. For instance, the assertion that we must speak our truth from our hearts in order to get anywhere, is an obvious truism for me.

However, he turns to America's occupation of Afghanistan, resting squarely on the 9/11 attacks, and the myth of al-Qaeda, as the basis for said occupation. This is unfortunate, because the conspiracy theory that 19 boxcutter-wielding al-Qaeda operatives (most of whom are known to still be alive) is a lie, a myth. Therefore, it is no basis for a foreign policy.

Hope, as we know, is tenacious, and it is my hope and prayer that this myth will be widely seen for what it is: a lie designed to allow very wealthy, powerful people increase their power and wealth. Clearly, my hope in this matter is audacious.

February 11, 2009

Compromise? Or Fundamental Change?

He'll achieve these goals the same way he always has: by bringing us together and reminding us how much we share and how alike we really are. You see, Barack doesn't care where you're from or what your background is or what party, if any, you belong to.
With her speech at the Democratic National Convention last year, Michelle Obama announced what the methodology of the Obama administration would be: compromise. Compromise is not inherently a bad thing, obviously. It is necessary for people to coexist with any semblance of peace.

However, the problems we face -- and by this I mean economic problems, because all other problems are rooted in their economic roles -- will not be solved by compromise, where those who have motivation to preserve the status quo are part of the compromise. This will simply keep things the way they are and have been for decades.

We need fundamental over-turning of how our society is fundamentally organized. Presently, the fundamental organizing factor in world society and culture is money. Money is completely abstract, 100% so. It doesn't really exist, it has no value other than the value we all pretend it has.

For me, this is obvious, as long as I stop and think about it for a moment. But then that moment passes, and I revert back to my American reality, wageslaving, buying stuff, and paying off debt. It is more than the default mode of being; it has its own momentum. It is difficult to recognize, much less escape.

I was reading a friend's blog and she is experiencing similar frustrations. This "bailout" package they are talking about is only an attempt to prolong the economic status-quo, and does not recognize the fundamental problem: Capitalism as a concept is flawed, is not indefinitely sustainable, and is near collapse under its own weight. Pretending otherwise is, at best, prolonging the inevitable and at worst, making the inevitable much more unpleasant than it needs to be.

Yet, capitalism is remarkably resilient, as my friend and old teacher has taught me. Injustice, oppression, and suffering are built-in to the very fabric of capitalism and are not escapable. But as capitalism grows and wealth consolidates itself, the amount of injustice and suffering systematically increases, in that more and more are affected. But enough people are left in enough comfort, that they have motivation to preserve the status quo. And sadly, most days I include myself in this group.

February 05, 2009

Yep, Linux is better....

Proof here, with commentary from Slashdot:
From install time to GUI efficiency, Ubuntu beats Windows and is often twice as fast. Where Windows 7 is competitive, the difference is something the average user would not notice. The average GNU/Linux user is now getting better absolute performance from their computer as well as better value than the average Windows user.
Where have I heard this before? I'm running Linux Mint on my laptop these days, and it's awesome. Compiz Fusion is really cool, and doesn't seem to cause a performance lag. I can now use Linux with work... everythign I want to use the laptop for just works.

January 25, 2009

As an experiment....

Here's a thought experiment I've been bouncing around my head recently:

Every time you hear a politican or journalist utter the word "create jobs," automatically substitute "create slavery" in your mind.

I'm convinced that the present capitalist employment structure of our society is a form of slavery. Many will be outraged by this concept, that slavery not only still exists but is the norm in America, but I am more convinced it is true. And, by "a form of slavery" I do not mean "the form of slavery that existed in the Americas until (theoretically) the end of the Civil War in 1865."

By slavery, I mean something like "A condition of subjection or submission characterized by lack of freedom of action or of will [1913 Webster]." Note that wageslavery meets these conditions. Also note that it doesn't say involuntary subjection or submission, which nulls the "if you don't like your job, quit; you still have free will" argument. Even so, in the end it's always a question of how much subjection or submission the person is willing to endure. The idea that survival without enduring some level of subjection or submission in our society is impossible is constantly reiterated everywhere you look. And, ironically, the self-made entrepreneur remains one of the fundamental archetypes of capitalist culture.

November 05, 2008

The Tenacity of Hope

Before we eat dinner together, my family does a blessing each night. Much of the time, we hold hands, center ourselves, and say what we are thankful for in that moment. Tonight, I said I was thankful for the tenacity of hope.

Over the past 2 months since my last post, I've vacillated back and forth between genuine optimism regarding the Obama campaign, to utter pessimism about the state of American politics in general. Both remain valid points of view in my opinion.

Clearly, yesterday's elections were historic moments, and you can feel a palpable sense of relief and optimism, as well as a renewed sense of hope.

As I watched Obama's speech last night at midnight, I got very emotional, with tears strolling down my face. Apparently I was in good company, but I suspect my emotions were quite different from these 2 iconoclast African-Americans.

You see, I so want to believe what Obama is saying, that he really is about change, that he wants to make this world a better place for all people. But as I've written here, the memory of 1992 lingers too fresh in my mind, and I just can't quite force myself to abandon my knowledge of history and cling to a false hope.

But one thing is already different, which is surprising and pleasing. The tone of American political dialogue already has shifted from Bu$hite rhetoric of spending the "political capital" he earned from the American people after stealing his second-term election, of arrogance and aggression, of not listening to the throngs of people protesting in the streets, to one of working together for a common good. A small sampling:

In this country, we rise or fall as one nation, as one people. Let's resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.... As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, we are not enemies but friends. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. To those Americans whose support I have yet to earn, I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices. I need your help. And I will be your president, too.
--Barack Obama

I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him, but offering our next president our good will and earnest effort to find ways to come together to find the necessary compromises to bridge our differences and help restore our prosperity, defend our security in a dangerous world, and leave our children and grandchildren a stronger, better country than we inherited.
--John McCain

Last night, I had a warm conversation with President-elect Barack Obama. I congratulated him and Senator Biden on their impressive victory. I told the President-elect he can count on complete cooperation from my administration as he makes the transition to the White House.... It will be a stirring sight to watch President Obama, his wife, Michelle, and their beautiful girls step through the doors of the White House. I know millions of Americans will be overcome with pride at this inspiring moment that so many have awaited so long.
--George W Bush

This was an exercise in American democracy of which Americans across the political spectrum are justifiably proud. President-Elect Obama was inspirational and I'm certain he will continue to be. The Department of State will do everything that we can, and I personally will do everything that I can, to ensure that this is a smooth transition.... I want to close on a personal note, as an African-American, that I am especially proud."
--Condoleezza Rice

Every American ought to celebrate tonight. It is a hopeful and optimistic thing for our country, and for the world it's a great symbol of what America's all about."
--Karl Rove

This type of dialogue is to be expected at the end of an election, but the shift in tone is palpable.

Ultimately, time will tell. Hope is tenacious inside me, yet I remain cautious. I think things will change, at least a little bit. After the Democrats won the house a few years back, I remember deriding the "wave of optimism" that would no doubt sweep the country. But this feels different. Obama has charisma, there is no doubt about that.

Let's see if he manages to do anything.

What I urge those people carried away by their optimism, hope, and relief to remember is the same thing I've been saying all throughout this campaign season. The sum total of American politics, for the people, does not begin and end on election day. Obama has been elected. Now the real work begins.

September 01, 2008

DNC = Does Not Compute?

"Now is not the time for small plans. Now is the time to finally meet our moral obligation."
--Barack Obama, 2008 Democratic Nomination Acceptance Speech
I've been following the Obama story with great interest, and saw most of the big speeches from the Democratic National Convention. This is unusual for me, because I'd stopped listening to politics for the most part. Obama definitely has charisma, and is a spectacular orator.

And the thing that is throwing me off, is that I actually agree with 8 out of 10 things he says. This is unprecedented. Even when I supported Nader in 2000, it was probably 7 out of 10.

However, past experience (namely Clinton in 1992-1997 or so) tells me that politicians like this, even one as obviously skilled as Obama, are all talk. I remember the euphoria from 1992 when Clinton was elected. I remember thinking, "we won." And yet, by 1996 I was thinking that in his 2nd term, Clinton would actually do things to change the world in his 2nd term, when he didn't have to worry about re-election. But by 2000, things were worse and I was really disillusioned about the American political process.

The point I have to remember is one I've articulated many times on this blog: Democrats and Republicans each serve the power structure in different ways. Republicans push the line as far as they can get away with, and the Democrats hold position, offering a little relief (at least in comparison), until the next Republican president takes office.

The point of American politics is not to actually solve problems, but rather to pacify the American people into idle, comfortable submission and apathy. Therefore, no politician in his right mind will say something that isn't immediately agreeable.

So my biggest problem with all this is that it's just a political system that I don't trust, that I believe is broken, and that I don't see how can be fixed. So why participate in it? On the other hand, the pragmatic argument is that suffering is likely to ease somewhat if Obama ends up president. But who knows.

So even if we assume that the system works, a point that I'm very much NOT prepared to grant, there are still many problems with all this.

  • One important issue to me is the issue of intellectual property, as readers of this blog doubtlessly know. Joe Biden is on the wrong side of intellectual property debate. This alone makes it difficult to get behind Obama/Biden.
  • I find it ironic that Obama said that Bill Clinton made "the case for change as only he can make it" during his speech, given how the issue of change was itself precisely the cornerstone of my disillusionment and disappointment during the Clinton administration.
  • Whatever happened to "war is good for the economy"?
  • It's extremely interesting that, 8 years after the Nader run in 2000, Obama is using Nader's argument for change. But rather than "there is no difference between Republicrats and Demicans," he's saying "there is no difference between the Bush administration and a possible McCain administration." Perhaps Nader's message has been absorbed more deeply than many realize.
  • I have a HUGE issue with the Democrat's repeated insistence on clinging to outmoded ideals that "a job is dignity." One's work is one dignity, whether or not one is waged for it. The fact that people must wageslave for 40 hours per week, and still struggle to meet their economic obligations under the system of wageslavery, is criminal. For all his hope, Barack Obama still believes that making sure MORE people participate in this system is the best way to help the American economy.
All these arguments are true, and plain to my eye. However, I still must concede that the pragmatic argument above carries weight in my soul. If Obama becomes President, it is likely that suffering will be reduced compared to a Bush or McCain presidency. Therefore, vote for Obama.

It is because of this argument, and ONLY because of this argument, that as it stands now I will vote for Obama in November. But I will NOT allow my participation in American politics to end there. The system is broken, and needs a serious upgrade.

Good citizenry goes beyond voting once every leap year.

August 04, 2008

Don't you feel safe?

For the first time in history, a country has more than 1% of its adult population in prison.

And that country, dear readers, is The United States, as reported by The Correctional News, a trade magazine for the prison industry.

Do you think maybe that there is a trade magazine for the prison industry has anything to do with this fact? Think about it: there are annual trade shows for the prison industry, where they get together to figure out how to increase profits.

No, that can't be related.

May 21, 2008


I took a nice ride tonight on our scooter, about 60 miles round trip, down Route 35 (mostly) from New Gloucester to Hollis. It's still chilly in Maine, it's been going into the low 40s at night. Tonight it was raining for the second half of the trip.

I've been reading several books by Emma Restall-Orr. I have 3 of her books, all of which approach various subjects from the point of view of druidry. Her newest book is about Pagan ethics, which is a subject near to my heart; there are many overlaps between this book and the book I've had in my head for a while. It's philosophical, but not academic. Another of her books discusses being with your environment, tuning in to what is happening around you. So while it was cold, and wet, it was great fun just whizzing through it at 37 miles per hour.

It was good to clear my head. Since I started working from home a few months ago, I don't get out of our place much. I've been spending lots of time outdoors lately, building garden beds. They're done now, we'll plant this weekend. I've been so busy with everything, I've not had as much time for my normal creative endeavors, mostly music and writing. My creativity has gone into the new job, and into the garden beds.

I'm not bitching, just describing. There is plenty of time for everything.

The warm weather is nearly here. Summer is coming. This is a good thing.

April 17, 2008

a numbers milestone: 100, 411, and 309.8

So what is 100 pounds? 200 rolls of toilet paper. 1 cubic foot of topsoil. 6 average car tires. 23 2-liter bottles of soda. 7 Edgars (my daughter's poodle). 3,024 compact discs.

100 pounds is also the amount of weight I have lost from my highest known weight, about 15 years ago.

I once weighed 411 pounds. Very likely, I weighed more than that, as after seeing that unfathomable number on the scale I went for several years without weighing myself.

This morning, I got on the scale, and it read 309.8. For the first time I am below 311, which means I've lost more than 100 pounds.

There are many reasons for the weight loss (walking, eating vegetarian/vegan, shovelgloving, the No-S Diet, t'ai chi, yoga) but my latest round of weight loss has come from the master cleanse fast. I'm presently on day 7 of the fast.

It is possible that when I break the fast I will put some weight back on. I'm already budgeting for this mentally, but I have some ideas about how to stabilize and continue the weight loss. Overall my weight stays pretty steady; I've been at 325 fairly consistently for 2 years now.

Anyway, forgive this moment of exuberance and self-indulgence over personal accomplishment, but GO ME! :-D

April 16, 2008

fukk da pope!

Can you believe this nonsense? The pope and George W hanging out like old buddies, with all the pomp and ceremony around it?

And listen to what they're saying: the pope was talking about the sexual abuse scandal among catholic priests in the US, but changed to subject to say: ""What does it mean to speak of child protection when pornography and violence can be viewed in so many homes through media widely available today?"

Yeah, widely-available pr0n is the problem. Not the destructive behavior of sexually-repressed men in positions of spiritual authority. Let's blame the fact that kids might see sex on a screen somewhere. Not those who actually decide to attack and violate these children.

Then to show just how full of cr@p all of this is, George W piped up: "In a world where some treat life as something to be debased and discarded, we need your message that all human life is sacred."

Sigh. Where to begin.

But don't worry. Things will be better soon when Obillary is in the White House.

Mmm hmmm.

No, really.

March 15, 2008


A Seeker's Question: Why do we continue to do things to ourselves that we KNOW are not good for us, that we know will harm us and bring no enduring benefit?

A Shaman's Answer: Because we are not yet good enough at loving ourselves.

March 05, 2008

1000 True Fans, or, art patronage in the 21st century

I just came across this fascinating article called 1,000 True Fans. It is basically a manifesto on how, with web/Internet technologies, a creative person can make a sustainable living if they have just 1000 "true fans":
A True Fan is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version. They have a Google Alert set for your name. They bookmark the eBay page where your out-of-print editions show up. They come to your openings. They have you sign their copies. They buy the t-shirt, and the mug, and the hat. They can't wait till you issue your next work. They are true fans.
The idea here is not new, but it is a nice articulation of a formula that bands have followed for years. For example, Marillion (one of my all-time favorite bands) first began exploring the potential of the Internet in 1997, when their fans (me included) donated money ($50, $10, $100 etc) to get the band to be able to come tour the USA, a venture which would have been cost-prohibitive otherwise. Then in 2000, they again tapped into their fanbase to finance their album, Anoraknophobia.

The challenge, of course, is to find 1000 true fans. Not a simple task.

Speaking of "true fans" (LOL), I wanted to note here that my band, Freakwitch, has finished our new album, Interconnected. If you are a myspace person, you can here 6 of the 8 songs on our myspace page. Or, you can listen to the full album right from your browser by going to our RPM challenge page. Or if you are "old school" net music aficionado you can download the mp3s directly from us (though PLEASE use the other 2 to save bandwidth if you are able).

We took part in the RPM Challenge in February, which is something like the National Novel Writing Month, except that you record an album rather than write a novel in a month. We decided to go for it, partly because we were tired of not getting recordings done, and partly because we wanted to give my new recording rig a test drive. Enjoy it, and if you do please consider becoming one of our 1000 true fans. :-)

March 03, 2008

Concentration of Power

Ok, you can make the argument that this post is in response to seeing a headline that Rush Limbaugh is ordering his cult to cross the lines and vote for Hillary in Texas. Sheesh.

Clearly, there was a deal made here somewhere. Some money (or another form of concentrated energy) changed hands somewhere.

And in the matter of Clinton vs. Obama, this is demonstrative of the reason why I cannot endorse Hillary Clinton.

It's not about her shady past, her questionable profiteering, her womanly laundry capability when it comes to stained blue dresses, or anything like that.

It's about her obvious connection to existing power structures. When Rush Limbaugh of all people is openly campaigning for Hillary Clinton, you know that there is a connection there. This is the existing power structure trying to preserve itself. And it says a lot about how much they fear Obama.

Speaking of Obama, let me take you back for a moment.

It's 1991. A young Democrat takes the political world by storm, and convinces people that there may indeed be a way out of the oppressive dominance of the Republicans and back to more compassionate, sane values. He was a breath of fresh air and inspired hope when he spoke. He was intelligent, articulate, and conveyed an honest passion that was refreshing from the usual scope of politician of the day.

He wins the election.

/cue Monty Python/
"And there was much rejoicing." *Yay, hooray*

And from my point of view, not a heck of a lot changed. Capital, (or the corporations, the neocons, whatever you want to call it) expanded its power got wealthier, thousands are people were killed in the name of profit, etc etc. Things did indeed feel better immediately, but I soon realized the rush of euphoria (I can't believe We(tm) actually won!) wore off quickly. The Clinton Years were, in my mind, characterized primarily by a relief that the velocity of destruction and greed seemed to be slowing.

Before you accuse me of believing that there is no difference between Demicans and Republicrats (yes I voted for Nader in 2000, but don't worry, Gore "won" Maine) I concede that, obviously, Bush II is "worse" than Clinton. But this is only because Bush is 8 years further down, and at the opposite polar point of, the same trajectory that Clinton rode for 8 years.

I now am aware of the difference between Democrats and Republicans. The 2000 election taught me that, as I've written before. They each serve the power structure in different ways. Republicans push the line as far as they can while in power, then the Democrats maintain that power until the next Republican is elected. Lather, rinse, repeat. This give and take is now the sum total of American political consciousness, such that anything that exists outside of this power structure is seen as not valid or "not realistic" or other such dismissal. This dance between the two goes back decades. Think about it:

  • 1992-2000, the Clinton years. The golden age. Wealth, prosperity for many. American didn't actually invade and occupy any countries, we just bombed them from afar.
  • 1980-1992, the Reagan/Bush years. Destroyed labor unions, several wars, the rich got richer, etc etc.
  • 1976-2000, the Carter Years. End of Vietnam, the country heals after Watergate with another young fresh breath of trustworthy air.
  • 1968-1976, the Nixon Years. Vietnam. Watergate. All kinds of outrageous scandals, corruption, genocide, standard Republican nonsense.
  • 1963-1968, the Johnson Years. Vietnam, and the empowerment of the Military Industrial Complex. This is a Democrat, no less....
  • 1961-1963, the Kennedy Years. Another golden age, another young politician who charms people, etc etc. This one had people feeling so good they killed him for it.
And so on. Push the envelope, then provide some relief because things don't seem to be plummeting as quickly. Push/pull. Give/take. Take it all together, and over time you see that this energy pattern is a downward spiral.

Anyone who is connected to this energy pattern, this concentration of power, should NOT be voted in to power. Anyone reading this from Ohio (my birth state) or Texas should read this as a suggestion to vote for Obama. There, I've officially done my part to counter Rush Limbaugh's endorsement.

After the stolen elections of 2000 and 2004, in general I am not inclined to vote these days. Obama is the only one I would actually vote for, I think. But I know this: I will not limit my participation in American politics to this one event every 4 years.

EDIT: someone pointed out to me that Obama is still very much a part of the system, and I completely agree with this. My point is, at present Obama is less entrenched into the system than Clinton is. Perhaps in 15 years they will be similarly invested. This underscores the point that the problem is with STRUCTURES of power, and not with individual people. This point was brought home by Al Gore; here's a guy who participated in the atrocities of the Clinton years, who votes Bush into power in 2000 when they stole the election for him, etc etc. Now that he is removed from the power structure, he's doing good work with his films and environmental activism.

So yes, I am quite suspicious of concentrations of power, and the reason Obama is so attractive is because he is, for the most part, outside of that structure at present. This is also why I am suspicious that things will change, because if he does win the presidency he will then be assimilated into the power structure.

February 15, 2008

Yes, I still love Maine in the winter...

We had a winter storm pass through. We got 12" of snow, then it turned to freezing rain and then rain. Truly a "wintry mix." The snow is piled about 2/3 of the way up our garage at the edge of the driveway. Our power went out for almost 24 hours.

But yes, I still love Maine.

I took some photos, and (finally) started a Flickr account. There are 9 photos in the set. Here are some thumbies to give you something to check out:

February 05, 2008

Whose side is the RIAA on?

In case there was any doubt about whose side the RIAA is on, this article clears things up. The public perception they would like to create is that the RIAA is busy fighting for the artists, by suing those artists' biggest fans.

Mmm hmmm.

But now the RIAA is arguing that the artists get paid too much. I mean, getting 8 whole percent of the sale price of a 99 cent digital download, DAMN those artists are greedy. What do they think they do, write, perform, and create the product we're selling or what?

According to papers filed by the RIAA at the Copyright Royalty Board, the labels want the board to reduce the rate to 8% of wholesale revenue. The current rate is about 9 cents per song, but it often is lowered in negotiations with the record companies. That money usually is split 50-50 between the publisher and the songwriter.
So yeah, that 8 per cent royalty rate is actually split between the artist and the publisher. So in actuality, the artists only see 4 percent.

It gets better. They also want to ELIMINATE royalty payments for streaming audio. This is when you click on a link on a webpage somewhere, and the music starts playing on your computer without you having to save a file or download. The RIAA is arguing that this does not constitute a "mechanical" royalty, which is paid whenever someone buys a copy of a song. The fact that streaming technology necessitates transferring a copy of the song from the server to the listener's computer seems to elude the RIAA.

Yet another example of how the RIAA misunderstands the digital age, and its application to outdated business models. Their business model is doomed, and they know it. For 70 years, the RIAA has been nothing more than the gatekeepers between artist and fan, and now there is new technology that makes that position completely moot and irrelevant.

So rather than adapt to the new reality, they grip ever tighter to the old paradigm, to the point where they are suing their best customers and ripping off their artists.

Good plan. Uh-huh. That'll work.

January 27, 2008

Penultimate Shift

I just finished my penultimate shift working @ AAA. I've accepted a new job working for RealTraps beginning on Monday. Lots of changes in our reality... good changes.

Lots of details to come, not the least of which is the laptop-wrangling I've done this week. I have a new laptop, and I'll be writing about Liberating it from Vista. I will need XP for my job, and I've worked very hard to get XP up and running on my new laptop. Linux went in much more easily, of course.

Of course.

Anyway, tomorrow is the final shift at AAA. I like the turn of phrase on "penultimate shift" because it reminds me that something new is always around the corner.

January 07, 2008

Gulf of Tonkin redux? and, Zeitgeist

Those who pay attention to what is being said in the corporate media understand that they are, by and large, tools of propaganda to shape public opinion. I still keep an eye on cnn.com fairly regularly so that I can continue to see this. I'm particularly interested in what is said about both Iran and Venezuela, since it is likely that these two countries will be future targets of the US Military machine (given that these 2 countries have among the largest oil reserves in the world).

Anyway, on cnn.com today there was another story that reminded me of the Gulf of Tonkin incident that launched the Vietnam War. It was reported that Iranian ships 'harass' U.S. Navy, officials say.

Are they for real? What armed force, anywhere in the world, would knowingly "harass" the US military without provocation? Knowing the technological superiority of the US military, and knowing the US military's unabashed willingness to blow the crap out of anyone they perceive as "enemy," I think anyone who would "harass" the US military would have to be insane. I just don't think it's likely.

Of course, anytime you have boys playing in their war machines, one must account for increased testosterone levels, so who knows. But then again, increased testosterone levels are known to bring about insanity.

On another note, a friend mentioned the Zeitgeist movie in a comment a couple entries down. I've watched the film; it's fantastic. I highly recommend watching it, though I will say that if you are Jewish or a Christian, and unwilling to have your BS (Belief System) challenged by rational argumentation grounded in both history and world myth, don't bother as you are likely to simply be offended. The film does do a great job of showing how religion (and here I mean organized religion, or as my father would say, the "Big-C" church) is little more than a mechanism for social control and domination, teaching people to submit to external, arbitrary authorities and stop thinking. Or as they say in a quote in the movie, to take authority as the truth rather than truth as the authority. Brilliant.

You can watch the video entirely online, it is available on Google video.

January 06, 2008

Linux Audio

I was very glad to see this primer on Linux audio: Audio Production Tools for Linux. It looks like audio for Linux is getting closer to ready for prime time.

In general I have the attitude: no matter how many bells and whistles exist in commercial software apps, if I can get the job done with Free software then I should do so. It just so happens that Free software tools have in many places gotten better than what commercial offerings can provide.

In particular, Ardour is growing incredibly, and Hydrogen looks wicked cool as well. Ubuntu Studio is probably what I'll try first, it also has some video features which look intriguing.

January 03, 2008

The Joys of Home Ownership

For the most part, I love "owning" my home (though I still have philosophical differences with the notion of "owning" land and homes). It gives me freedom to do whatever I want with the place, and of course the economic benefits are well-known.

But sometimes it's just a pain in the ass. Like, say, the past 18 hours. We have about 18" of snow on the ground, and last night it got down to below zero, BEFORE the wind chill.

So last night I went to make dinner.... no gas. Hmm, I thought. If there's no gas in the stove, then that means..... no furnace.

Indeed, the furnace wasn't working. It was still reasonably warm at this point. So the first thing I did was go out to see if the propane tanks were full. After a fair amount of time digging a path to them (18" of snow and all) I discovered that, indeed, they were all about half full. I called our gas guy and he had some advice for me. I tried what he suggested (cleared off the roof around the furnace chimney, and restarted the gas) and, no luck.

So we all spent the night in our room with the space heater on (Mo, LM, myself, our dog, and my daughter's new gerbils). It was actually warm in there, but of course coming out of the room this morning was no fun.

After another phone call I decided to investigate the regulator at the back of the house. It's just off the back porch; sadly we have no way to get down from the back porch, it's basically a small balcony overlooking the hill and our woods. I could, however, see that the regulator was frozen solid.

I looked up, on the edge of the roof, and sure enough there were a bunch of icicles hanging down above where the regulator is. The exhast vent for the stove is right there; the warm air from the stove melts the snow on the roof, and then the water drips down and lands on the regulator. This is why it was encased in ice. Bad engineering.

So I went around to the back of the house and dug another path through the snow along the edge of the house to the regulator. After some gentle TLC with a hammer and chisel, the regulator was cleared out. I made double-sure the vent was clear; the vent being clogged with ice was the cause of the problem. When this happens the gas flow is designed to shut down.

After that I came back inside, turned on a burner on the stove, and sure enough there was the telltale hissing sound and the smell of propane. Yay!

So I re-lit the pilot lights and we were back in business. In fact the heater just kicked off again a few minutes ago, which means the house is back up to 68 degrees F.

I can't move the regulator easily, so soon I'll build a small shelter to cover the regulator, so any dripping water will be deflected away from it.

Don't wanna have to do this again. Though at least we're warming up now, we're up to 6.8 degrees F. :-)